Saturday, February 19, 2011

Random. Acts. Kindness.

I had no idea it was National Random Acts of Kindness week until my friend Layla told me. But, as you have probably gathered, I'm all over Random. Throw a little Kindness in there and I'm sold.

One of life's greatest pleasures is doing something unexpected for someone. If it can be pulled off off anonymously? Even better.

When El and I talked about teaming up to spread a bit of RAOK love, my mind immediately went to two people in my life, only neither person is actually in my life. They flitted past like glossy hummingbirds. Captivating. Fleeting.

Had I mis-timed my blinks, I may have missed them altogether.

But here's the thing about offering unexpected kindness to a stranger: They'll always blink at just the right time.

These moments really can change a person. It's true. Because when you are clawing at the sky, desperate for some sunshine to seep through the scratch-marks and distract you from the rain that blows sideways in your face, you will see the world differently when Sun reaches down, warm and sure, and pulls you out. You'll not forget. You'll be changed.

The first person I thought of was the lady in the airline uniform. She spilled out compassion for me, the kind that cuts to the chase and takes action. I regret to this day that I didn't get her name. I want to write a letter to her supervisor. I want to hug her on the Oprah show and tell her how much she changed me, in that moment.

The second person I thought of buzzed past several years earlier.

I had been married for less than a year. I was at a week-long training for a horrific job (little did I know) selling insurance. I was cooped up all week long in a room with older men who actually cared about things like annuities and Long Term Care plans.

In the midst of my week, my Dad suddenly became very ill and was hospitalized, a state away. I remember the phone calls, "Should I come?" and the reassurance that I should stay, should finish what I needed to do.

It was believed, at that time, that my Dad might have MS.

It was scary and uncertain and I felt like a little girl, too far from home.

At some point during the week, I received a call. Word got out, to a very small extent.

Later that afternoon a man several places to my left passed me a note.

He was around my Dad's age, a police officer in a nearby town. That's all I knew about him.

Now, I know this: He wrote a note, folded it up, and passed it down the line, Junior-High-School-style.

My heart split wide open that he reached out to me, so alone in that room. To this day, I cannot think about that pink highlighter smiley-face without crying.

I have moved four times since then. I've gained three children. I've made some serious progress on a few wrinkles. And still, that note remains folded up, flanneled at the creases, in my Important drawer.

It reminds me of the simple, profound magnitude of taking a tiny risk and reaching out. What is it that so often holds us back? Why do we convince ourselves that to act might be "stupid" or "weird" or "awkward"? This man didn't sweat it. He wrote a few words, then switched pens and added a special touch of kindness that felt like a kiss on the cheek.

Eight years later, my dad was officially diagnosed: He has MS. There are days that seem OK and there are others that make me feel like that same little girl, way too far from home. Very often, when heaviness threatens to creep over, I remember the kindness of a stranger and that cold lurch of fear backs off, at least a little. That man, whoever he was, moved into my fear and left a bright spot of hope, penned in indelible ink.

I will never forget.


*To read Layla's spin on RAOK, go here.

32 comments:

  1. What a lovely man! I would have saved the note too. The nicest things happen when you least expect it.

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  2. I was just pondering this today. I read a post at Jen's Ink Pen about a small kindness a neighbour sent her way. And I hope I remember both her post and yours the next time I second guess myself when I sense I should reach out. Thank you for sharing this Shannon. This is good stuff : )
    Dana

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  3. Despite how my comment sounds... I am not over sixty and do not mother every blogger I read : ) But it was still good stuff.

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  4. Powerful. The kindness that is random is so powerful. What thoughtful people that dropped in and out of your life.

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  5. Shannan, THIS is a Valentine's Day post of the VERY best sort. (Never mind that it's a week late---REAL Valentine's is year round, no?) It inspires and prods me onward, gives me something to live up to. Thank you. xo

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  6. that makes my heart smile. knowing that people, that sweet middle aged man in particular, is willing to throw caution to the wind and share a bit of their heart with another. THAT is the best kind of kindness there is.

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  7. Pink highlighter smiles to you today! Sweet post.

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  8. my mom has ms too. i love that you saved that note.

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  9. My precious Nana passed away one week ago yesterday, and I cannot tell you how the "random (are they ever truly random?) acts of kindness" from a community of love have surrounded my family's hearts with cozy blankets against the pain. Meals, notes, tears over the phone--the things we think might not matter SO matter. We never know how God multiplies the crumbs of bread we throw upon the waters. Thank you for the reminder.

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  10. this made me do a watery, out loud laugh.
    thinking of him switching pens, just to add some color for you.
    this was Jesus smiling his big giant fatherly smile at you
    and kissing the top of your sweet scared mixed up little head.
    i love that guy!
    i MUST do a post about MY most remembered RAOK moment!

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  11. I often wonder what it is that keeps us from doing things like this. I try, whenever I think something nice about someone, to make a point to tell them. Today in the grocery store an old (old) woman came up to me and told me I was beautiful. It almost made me cry. I want to do that for someone else.

    She couldn't have known how I needed that today.

    On a side note, I once interviewed a man for an article who had debilitating MS. He'd been completely, completely healed of it. Amazingly, He credited God. My aunt has it too. It can be scary, but for the most part she does so well. I am adding your dad to my prayer list.

    And you. Because your random act of kindness toward me the other day was most...most appreciated! Love you! Hope Ohio is amazing!

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  12. What wonderful stories. I am so glad you shared.

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  13. I lover your stories. It is a simple reminder that every day we can make a positive difference in someone's life. I needed it greatly last Sunday and a sweet friend was the one to do it....but it is just as meaningful and special when it comes from a stranger. Regarding the MS....my brother in law had it and it is completely gone. He used his own stem cells and he has been free from all medication for three years! Truly amazing. If you want to know more call me.

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  14. I don't only love your stories...I lover them!!!

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  15. awww, you made me all teary...but in a good way.
    much love and kindness to you!

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  16. Isn't it funny how the little girl feeling comes back so quickly? Great way to describe that scary, "not-in-control" feeling.

    Thank you for sharing your stories!

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  17. Thank you for the reminder. I missed an opportunity at a check out line to help a young mother out and I have beat myself up ever since. The opportunity jumped up and slapped me in the face and I stood by like a statue. I need to seek these opportunities out and stop waiting for the opportunity again. Thanks for the wake up call.

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  18. very touching. and timely. thank you!

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  19. I didn't know that it was the official week. I am so glad I stumbled across your blog. As part of the #3in30 challange one of my goals is to pay for the next person's meal in the drive through line. Great stories!

    www.cdycattle.blogspot.com

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  20. sweet post, shannon. reminds me of the things that itstartswith.us is doing. i try to remember to be as kind as can be... just a hello might mean the world to someone down and out.
    hope you are all well~ xo

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  21. Well I had a post sitting since January and after seeing that you said it was Random Acts of Kindess Week, I decided to hit publish. Hope you have a swell week. :)

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  22. Oops, that last comment would be me. Sorry little Jax forgot to sign out. ;)

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  23. Really loved this story. And I know someone mentioned this already...but I noticed the different colored ink, too, and thought, wow, he took the time to switch to pink for the smiley face. That's the part that really got me.

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  24. Oh, I love this. That note (pink highlighter!!) is so precious.
    Now you've got me thinking... what can I do? :D Can't wait to get started.

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  25. newest follower. Saw your blog on another blogroll and I loved the title. As soon as I clicked on your link I knew I would love your blog. I'll be back, laura
    http://imnotatrophywife.com

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  26. I've been gone on a trip so I'm catching up on your posts. I love the note from the co-worker. He truly felt called to reach out and it was so worth it!

    I did my grocery shopping this morning and an elderly lady with happy eyes was behind me in line. She was using a motorized chair with the basket in front from the store. I told her I'd put her groceries on the belt so she wouldn't have to get up. I am sensitive to those with disabilities because my mom has been battling a severe case of MS for almost 20 years. I know she relies on the kindness of strangers often. Her and my dad live 6 hours away from us so I pray that the Lord puts a helpful spirit in someone's heart daily and you know what? He does! :) She has so many stories of kind strangers that now are considered caring friends. This lesson is not lost on my children which I am so grateful for.

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  27. I love that your post always give me something to take back into real life for after I log out thanks for sharing one more time.

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  28. Beautiful post. I have such a lump in my throat. Thank-you so much for sharing and reminding me to think of others.

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